The fate of Muslims in their own homeland is not particularly rosier. From one end of the Muslim world to the next, Muslims – in Iran, Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia in particular – live under tyrannical regimes, ruthless dictators, murderous military juntas, with their most basic civil liberties and human rights denied. In Yemen, they are being slaughtered and subjected to man-made famine by the Saudis and their partners – and if one journalist dared to raise his voice he is chopped up to pieces in his own country's consulate.
Yes, it is true that there are tyrannies, ruthless dictators, murderous juntas, in so many Muslim countries — Dabashi could have listed several more violence-riven Muslim states (as Algeria, Libya, Sudan, Pakistan) — but what does this Muslim-on-Muslim violence have to do with the Unbelievers? Dabashi doesn't explain. Does he want to blame us, the Unbelievers in the West, for the rule of the Shi'a mullahs, for the Assad despotism, for the more enlightened despotism of Abdelfattah El-Sisi, for the ruthless Al-Saud family of kleptocrats in Saudi Arabia? Perhaps Dabashi should ask himself what is it about the ideology of Islam that makes its adherents uniquely violent and uniquely impervious to democracy? Could it have something to do with the violence that is everywhere in the Qur'an and the Hadith? There are 109 Qur'anic verses that command Muslims to conduct violent Jihad, to "smite at the necks" of the Unbelievers, to "strike terror" in their hearts. Could the violence of Muslim societies have to do with Muhammad, as the Model of Conduct, who took part himself in dozens of military campaigns and claimed that "I have been made victorious through terror"? There is the ideology of Islam, by which the ruler's legitimacy depends only on his being a good Muslim; being a despot has never been a disqualification.
What is this? What is going on? What does it all mean?
Let's begin with China. How are we to fathom the criminal, vicious, atrocities of the Chinese authorities in their Muslim gulags? "If ethnic cleansing takes place in China and nobody is able to hear it, does it make a sound?" asks Josh Rogin, in a poignant piece for the Washington Post. "That's what millions of Muslims inside the People's Republic are asking as they watch the Chinese government expand a network of internment camps and systematic human rights abuses designed to stamp out their peoples' religion and culture."
The numbers and the very idea are staggering: the UN reported that more than one million Uighurs are in detention in "counter-extremism centres" and at least two million are in "re-education camps".
In another investigative piece, BBC reports: "China is accused of locking up hundreds of thousands of Muslims without trial in its western region of Xinjiang. The government denies the claims, saying people willingly attend special "vocational schools" which combat "terrorism and religious extremism". That "terrorism and religious extremism" bit belies the malignant intent of these camps.
In another report, we read, "Muslims forced to drink alcohol and eat pork in China's 're-education' camps." The same reports further add: "The psychological pressure is enormous when you have to criticize yourself, denounce your thinking."
These are not just journalistic reports. "British diplomats who visited Xinjiang," Britain's foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has told parliament, "[we] have confirmed that reports of mass internment camps for Uighur Muslims were 'broadly true'."
Yes, we have already noted that re-education camps are deplorable. But they are nothing like real Soviet "gulags" or Nazi "concentration camps," as Hamid Dabashi calls these Chinese re-education camps. No one is being worked to death, no one is physically tortured, no mass murders are taking place. These places are not Auschwitz nor Kolyma.
Then we come to Myanmar. The massacre of Muslim-majority Rohingya in Myanmar under the watchful eyes of the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has horrified the world but been kept apace [sic] for years now.
To repeat, there have been 10,000 killed, that is, less than 1% of a total Rohingya population of 1.3 million. Is that a "massacre"?
Since 2016, Muslim-majority Rohingya in Rakhine State have been the targets of Myanmar armed forces and police, which have been accused of ethnic cleansing and genocide by the United Nations, International Criminal Court officials, human rights groups, journalists, and governments including the United States.
Hamid Dabashi leaves out the original cause of the latest killings in Myanmar: the attack by Rohingya insurgents on 24 police stations in August 2017. He also leaves out other attacks by Rohingya on the Myanmar police, including a major one in October 2016. He does not go into the history of attempts by the Rohingya to split off Rakhine State and join it to East Pakistan, nor of how the Rohingya massacred tens of thousands of Buddhists during World War II. Dabashi's use of the word "genocide" deserves examination. Genocide involves the attempt to wipe out a whole people. It does not describe what has happened to the Rohingya, half of whom remain living, as they have always lived, in northern Myanmar; the other half have fled to Bangladesh without any attempt by the Myanmar army either to stop them from leaving, or to attack them. Think of the very different fate of Jews who tried to escape from Nazi-occupied lands. As noted above, fewer than 1% of the Rohingya have been killed, which is indefensible, but is hardly a "genocide" as that word is generally understood.